Source: A House of Straw

I was about to post a link to a German designed office building that’s being praised for being sustainability-minded, but, seeing how it’s basically a spiral of steel, I thought it’s probably not the best example out there. Steel is sustainable in the sense that it’s easily recyclable (and often gets recycled), but the process of mining and refining iron ore into stainless steel has a high impact on the environment.

Instead, I want to introduce you to the idea of straw-bale construction. Building with straw is great because straw is a renewable resource, is already produced as a by-product of cereal farming, and it makes excellent insulation. There are many sources out there explaining how to build homes out of straw—even TLC has an article on How Straw Bale Houses Work. Two sites that come up on Google are A House of Straw and Both have instructions and classes on how to build, articles, FAQs, and photos of completed projects. Also check out Straw Bale Construction, which provides a more in-depth analysis of the costs and benefits of using straw for building, among other sustainable building information.

Mind you, there’s no one “perfect” building material or technique—some materials are better suited for particular environments than others, and even certain techniques may be cost-prohibitive upfront even if in they are cheaper in the long run. But combining low- or no-impact building materials with smart design (like passive solar building and, grey water systems) can make a thoroughly sustainable building.